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Use this framework to get close to whom you are marketing

In the 1990s advertising agencies started to talk about “a day in the life of your customer”. In doing so they created fictional characters which represented the customer segments they were targeting. Advertising agencies are still the major users of personas today.

A persona is a character. It is a description of somebody, not just anybody. It is the image, the face and personality of a (made up) person. If you can characterise a persona within a group of customers, it becomes easier to target them. Persona development is important in advertising to give a focus to promotions. With the persona in mind you know who you are talking to, who you are designing for and who you want to do business with.  You can develop personas for different decision makers and influencers. For example, it may be helpful to build a persona of someone who is an influencer rather than a customer or even a “negative” persona – someone you want excluding from targeted communications.

Developing personas requires a qualitative and creative approach. Insights on the personas can be obtained from many sources – sales teams, market research reports, the internet, LinkedIn etc.


Decide which personas you want to develop. It could be the key decision maker within the decision-making unit, a lost customer, a promoter, a detractor, a potential customer etc. Use a profile such as the one for "Promoter Paul" to build a picture of your persona. Include intelligence or biographical details that will be helpful in making marketing communications most effective.

When creating a buyer persona it is useful to brainstorm and to use as many sources of information as possible:

Market research reports – these provide a good background on the key decision-makers. The market research reports might have limited information on the personal background of the buyers and influences but much can be inferred. Focus groups and quantitative surveys can provide insights on the composition of people within the decision-making unit.

Sales teams – customer facing people speak to buyers and influencers all the time and will be able to provide detailed descriptions.

Internet searches – viewing images on a Google search for people of a certain trade will show dozens of pictures that characterise the audience.

LinkedIn – a search for job titles on LinkedIn show photos and profiles of people in that role. An examination of these will show ages, education levels and career paths.

Google analytics – Google analytics provides statistics on the demographics of people who visit your website including the interest that people have in external activities.

Once the persona has been developed, the real work begins of developing the communication messages. The persona will show:

  • Messages and images that grab attention.

  • Messages that resonate and mean something.

  • Words that indicate you speak the same language.

  • Compelling arguments that make someone want to do business with you.

Some things to think about:

  • When developing persona, make it personal. Give the person a name. Imagine what sort of person this is – their age, where they live, their family background, their aspirations at work, the type of car they drive etc. This person should be as close as possible to the bull’s eye in the range of people you target.

  • The persona you have developed is your customer. Consider making a large cut-out model of this person and bring them into your marketing meetings. This is your customer and they are listening to what you say!

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